Overcome Your Fear of Networking!

Professional networking can feel awkward or even scary. Lots of strangers with achievements and years of experience in one room can be daunting. Unfortunately, new clients or the right connections will not magically appear on your doorstep for the majority of people. So, to help you overcome your fear of networking here is some advice.

Shift your mindset

Often, networking is thought of as a chance to collect business cards. Really, it is about the people. The goal is to make connections. Talk about your interests, passion projects, or what you want to learn. Find those people who share the same values and interests as you, and you’ve made a much more valuable professional relationship. So, instead of seeing a room full of impressive experts, see it as a room full of possible friends.

Start small

If networking events and groups seem like a big commitment, then go for smaller networking opportunities. Join online groups where you can respond to discussion forums. Reach out to a senior coworker who you would love to learn from.

Practice makes perfect

No one is born with perfect networking skills. The more you put yourself out there, the better you will become at it. Sometimes it takes a little push to get you down the right path. Plus, if you’re nervous about small talk or your elevator pitch, try it out on your friends or family before you take it to a professional setting.

Know your boundaries

Find a way to network that does not push you too far out of your comfort zone. Decide what kinds of networking feel plausible and what makes your stomach churn. Stepping into large network events when you have social anxiety is not the best approach for you. Instead, maybe individual coffee chats or emailing is more your style. There are lots of networking possibilities that fit your needs.

Ignore imposter syndrome

Networking does not require any qualifications. No matter how many CEOs or industry experts there are, you deserve to be in that room. If you struggle to feel confident in yourself, write a list of what you bring to the table. What skills do you know, accomplishments did you make recently, or services you offer that others can’t? The more you internalize your positives, the more other people will notice your confidence. 

Embrace awkwardness

Everyone is human. We are not cold corporate robots but creative people with personalities. Conversations can be awkward. Meeting new people often is a bit awkward. So, go in knowing that we all make mistakes and embrace the awkwardness together. Try these 43 conversation starters and icebreakers to help you get started.

It’s not about results

Networking does increase your chances of a new job opportunity, partnership, or acquiring new clients. Yet, it is no guarantee that is what you will get every time you network. Remember, it is about the connections and relationships you build, not what you can get from others. If you meet a recruiter that is not interested in hiring you or has no positions open, it is not a waste of time. Chances are they know another recruiter who does or can talk to you about what you could be missing in your application. Read more about how to follow up on a new connection here.

What can you do for them?

Part of networking is also finding out what you can do to help other professionals. Developing professional relationships should not be a one-way street where you constantly want something from someone else. The best networks support each other. What problems are they running into? Is there something they are missing you can provide? Are they looking for an accountability partner? 

Listen to more networking tips on our podcast Unlimited HERizons where Katie Perry and Megan Bozzuto talk about their book Putting the P.O.W.E.R in Your Network.

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